Collecting the World: Hans Sloane and the Origins of the British Museum

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Winner of the Louis Gottschalk Prize
A Times Book of the Week

When the British Museum opened its doors in 1759, it was the first free national public museum in the world. Collecting the World tells the story of the eccentric collector whose thirst for universal knowledge brought it into being.

A man of insatiable curiosity and wide-ranging interests, Hans Sloane assembled a collection of antiquities, oddities, and artifacts from around the British Empire. It became the most famous cabinet of curiosities of its time. With few curbs on his passion, he established a network of agents to supply him with objects from China, India, the Caribbean, and beyond. Wampum beads, rare manuscripts, a shoe made of human skin: nothing was off limits. The first biography of Sloane based on his complete writings, Collecting the World portrays one of the Enlightenment's most original luminaries.

"A magnificent scholarly coup and an enthralling conveys the excitement of original research as well as the thrill of tracking exotic curiosities to their source."
--Sunday Times

"Delbourgo's engrossing new biography situates Sloane within the welter of intellectual and political crosscurrents that marked his times."
--New York Times Book Review

"A superb biography--humane, judicious and as passionately curious as Sloane himself."
--Times Literary Supplement

"A superb book, enjoyably written, beautifully illustrated, and based on deep knowledge of the sources."
--The Telegraph

Publication Date: 
March 18, 2019